Mohini sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf. She savoured the deep flavour of the cappuccino as she thought of the implications of her getting caught with the bloodied knife.
For a woman who had just escaped from a scene of murder of her own doing, she was exceptionally calm. She cast a quick glance at the weapon concealed under the silk. She noticed the streaks of deep crimson that had begun drying over the silk. She knew she shouldn’t keep the knife on her, which would only prove to the world of her deed if she were found but she couldn’t even throw the knife away too. Something within her wanted to hold onto it. The human mind has weird ways of dealing with odd situations such as this.
The more she thought of it, the more frightened she became of the consequences. In her fit of anger, the consequences had shrunk to mere insignificance compared to how unjustly she had been treated. A part of her mind conveyed to her the senses of victory, of immense triumph over her adversary.
She could remember that day very clearly. That day when the entire world around her changed sides, becoming something opposite of their former selves. Her days had become nights, her greatest dreams and aspirations had become her worst nightmares. That day, her father had breathed his last, leaving her seemingly alone in this harsh and desolate world. She had never experienced the love of a mother. Her mother had died in her early childhood days, she knew her only from the framed photographs that her father had hung up all over the house. Her father had been with her for everything, he was there in all her beautiful days and her worst of nights. He had been with her from the moment she first started walking to the day when she would have to help him walk. From the little failures in her life to her greatest achievements, he had been there for everything. His mere presence had been the source of inspiration and motivation in her life. And now he was gone. Because of one man.
A hot drop of tear escaped her eye, rolled down her cheeks but it wasn’t a drop of sadness but of wrath ill spent. Her seventy five year old father had been suffering from lung cancer, a scarcity in someone so old but not medically impossible. She could have saved him. She had been looking for a job to earn the money to save her father from this complex disease. Their insurance policies had run out and her father’s pension, all spent. But her job had been snatched away from her, even though she thought she rightly deserved it, according to her. Which she did, maybe. Who knows? But the position had been unjustly seized away from her by a man who supposedly happened to know the lead HR person in the company and had managed to convince him that her documents were all faked and she had been ousted disrespectfully from the office without further ado, and all her attempts to prove otherwise were simply ignored. If she had been granted that job, she might just have been able to save her father, or at least cherish his existence maybe for a few more days.
She had tried her luck in various other places but fortune didn’t seem to favour her at her time of need. Luck had provided her one opportunity but then, circumstances had snatched it away from her. She wandered from door to door, while her father lay in the hospital, hoping every night that he would live to see the sun rising next day. Fury boiled through her veins even at the thought of it. She emptied the remnants of her cup of coffee in one short gulp, the steaming concoction scalding her tongue and throat but she couldn’t have cared less. She slumped and looked out of the clear glass window, watching with an unwavering gaze, as the fiery red orb of life giving light sank beneath the horizon, amidst Mumbai’s skyscrapers.
‘Would you like to have something else, ma’am?’ a waitress came up and asked.
Mohini was so lost in her thoughts that she failed to register the presence of the waitress. The waitress coughed politely and repeated her question. Mohini jumped in surprise and fumbled out an answer, ‘Uh, yes. Another cup of coffee, please. And a croissant.’
The waitress went away to prepare another cup while Mohini again dove back into the ever darkening depths of her consciousness, questioning the righteousness of her deed. A part of her was still revolting yet, another part of her questioned the very existence of the feeling of such revenge that she had to go ahead and murder him. The man had acted very unjustly, taken away something which she rightly deserved but that didn’t give her the right to take the law into her own hands. A part of her argued, saying that her father couldn’t live to see another day because of that man but her true conscience replied that there was no possible way for the man to know of her urgent necessity of earning money and therefore he was in no possible way responsible for her father’s death and she had no right to commit such atrocity over the man.
Another drop of tear escaped her eyes as the two factions of her consciousness waged their war, battling to prove their stand. That man had acted out of pure professional jealousy, not on some personal grudge. And most of all, the man couldn’t have known about her father’s condition and her necessity of her situation. But again, he couldn’t have cared less even if he knew, her other mind countered, after all, manners maketh man.
Suddenly, a question made its way into her consciousness. What purpose did this murder serve? She, in her wrath, had killed the man for unjustly taking what was rightfully hers, but did killing him bring back her father? Did it provide any consolation for her fragmented soul? Did it, in any way, patch up her torn spirit? These were rhetoric questions which did not require answering. Her heart already knew the answers to those questions. The more she thought of it, the more she realized how impulsive and precipitous she had been while she committed the deed. Her father had died because of a terminal disease, albeit acutely curable.
‘Here is your coffee, ma’am.’ The waitress said as she carefully laid the cup in front of Mohini.
‘Thank you.’ Mohini said.
It was then that the waitress noticed the lines of moisture etched across her face. ‘Is everything alright?’
Mohini again looked out of the window, staring at the sky. Sequin silver stars like the bright glowing embers of a dying campfire pit winked down at her, illuminating the pitch black curtain of sky. Suddenly, the grey clouds parted, and she found herself gazing at a lustrous, argent disc casting a white shade onto the city that never sleeps.
A little time passed before Mohini finally smiled and answered the waitress’s question, ‘I'm quite alright. Thank you.’
‘Is there something I could help you with?’ the waitress asked.
‘Actually, yes. You could. You don’t have any job pending ahead of you, right?’
‘No, I don’t. In fact, I’m free for the day.’
‘Okay. So what would you do if someone else, whom you don’t even know, happens to be partly responsible for the death of your already sick father?’
The waitress looked outside into the distance, staring particularly at nothing, watching the cars glide by noiselessly, and people, both young and old walk by. Mohini could almost hear her mental gears turning as she pondered on the question. After a long time, she finally replied, ‘I’d forgive him.’
‘Hmm. Now you must be wondering why I’m asking you a question like this. Let me clear that doubt for you. I just killed the man who is, or rather was, partially responsible for my father’s death who was suffering from lung cancer. I needed a job desperately to raise money for my father’s treatment, but that man had snatched that away from me by unjust means, and I have killed him. And now I’m pondering over the righteousness of my deed.’
The waitress remained expressionless. She had obviously heard the news somewhere. She pressed her lips and then said:
‘Imagine you’re God, looking down through a microscope. Now set the microscope so as to provide maximum magnification. What you will be able to see is the whole of mankind, scurrying about like ants doing their insignificant jobs to make a living on a little speck of a planet, in the universe, called Earth. Now reduce the magnification a little bit. What you will be able to see now is the planet, a beautiful blue coloured planet which supports life, and the scores of manmade satellites rotating the planet. Further reduce the magnification. What you will be able to see now is the entire solar system, of which the Earth is a tiny part. Now reduce the magnification some more. What you will be able to see now is the whole of the Milky Way Galaxy, of which the solar system is a tiny fragment, floating about in the midst of the billions of stars and solar systems in the galaxy in perfect harmony and synchronisation. Now look through the eyes of God, with the eyes of a human. What you realize is how overwhelmingly or staggeringly minute we are. Yet, we think ourselves to be big, to be something more than what we really are.
‘You think getting a job is the only biggest thing that could have saved your father’s life; but do you really believe that? Ask yourself that question once again and listen to the answer that comes to your mind now. The answer that takes time to come. The very first impulse to do something or the very first answer to any question is often wrong.’
Mohini realized the wisdom in her words. She began thinking about the other consequences of her deed. She closed her eyes and imagined the faces of the parents who had lost a son. She tried wearing their shoes, trying to realize the pain they were undergoing, the loss they had suffered. Was it really necessary to go ahead and kill him? Mohini thought.
As if reading her thoughts, the waitress replied, ‘No. It wasn’t. And you know it in your heart that you’ve wronged those parents, wronged the memory of your own father and most of all, you have wronged yourself. From this moment on, you will never be able to feel secure; you will always have the feeling of being pursued by somebody, only this time you won’t be running from somebody but from yourself. You will never be able to forgive yourself. You will realize this sooner or later. That is all I have to say for you, ma’am.’
She got up and returned to her usual spot behind the marble and glass counter and said, ‘And don’t worry. I won’t call the police.’
Mohini smiled. She finished the remnants of the second cup of coffee and swallowed the last bite of the delightful chocolate croissant and got up. She paid the money with a generous tip and said to the waitress, ‘I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You will never know how much I ever will be indebted to you.’
Sometime later, she went into the local police station which was investigating the matter and sat down in front of the main wooden desk, pulling out the bloodied knife from within her bag.
‘I am the killer you're looking for.’ Mohini said with a smile.
And she told them the entire story.
Issue 68 (Jul-Aug 2016)